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jenniemac
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Reged: 06/02/05
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Write Leg. about lack of family court accountabili
      #28997 - 08/26/05 06:19 PM

Now is the time state legislators start working with constituents and interested parties on bills to propose in the upcoming legislative session. Consider writing a letter to your state and national legislators if you are concerned about accountability in the family court processes in your state. Here is a letter I sent to Colorado legislators who sponsored HB05-1171 and 1172 in the o5 legislative session. Use any of this information that you agree with.

Dear :

Public policy and legislation are an expression of our values. The language in HB05-1171 and HB05-1172 fails to protect troubled families (children and parents) involved in family courts. Please consider legislation that will address recommendation 69 B and F of the Final Report of the Commission on Families in the Colorado Courts. http://www.courts.state.co.us/supct/committees/commfamiliesdocs/famreport.pdf (pages 32-33)

Recommendations 69 B and F appear to have been overlooked in HB05-1171 and HB05-1172.

69 B. Develop a system that allows for removal of individuals who are not competent in the functions of the position or role to which they have been appointed. The committee should develop an appropriate process for identifying individuals who are not performing competently
and steps for corrective action and/or removal of those individuals. These processes should specify the regulatory entities and/or court to be involved.

69 F. For both D. and E. above, assure that the statutory provisions place court-appointed professionals’ accountability for complying with the standards of practice with their professional regulatory board or agency. (Recommendation 69 D refers to the parent coordinator role.)

We have more divorcing families choosing not to use the courts. Colorado district court statistics show that the percent of domestic court cases has decreased from 25% to 17% of all court cases.

The Association of Family and Conciliatory Courts (AFCC) is hosting a regional training in September in Breckenridge Colorado. The agenda is filled with Coloradoans presenting on these ill defined roles. http://www.afccnet.org/pdfs/AFCCBreckenridgeWEB.pdf (pages 3-5)

I have heard presentations by Robert Smith, treasurer for the AFCC and a member of the training planning committee and Robert LaCrosse, one of the presenters. Robert LaCrosse shared that a parent coordinator would only have to answer to the courts that appointed them. Robert LaCrosse presented misinformation the two times I heard him present. Robert LaCrosse is presenting at the AFCC September training on the parent coordinator role. HB05-1172 does not require professionals to adhere to their standards of practice. They answer only to the courts that appoint them.

Robert Smith was the Special Advocate for the Rick Walters’ family. Rick Walters killed his former wife and all but one of their children before taking his own life. The child that survived did so by playing dead. Robert Smith in his presentation described families who used the family courts as having an “unbelievable, breath-taking, inability to self-observe”.

If I have my dates right, Robert Smith gave this presentation after the Rick Walters family deaths. Could it be that these attributes could also be those of some our family court helpers and unfortunately contribute to the violence and sometimes death inflicted on families in conflict using our courts.

HB05-1171 and 1172 do not adequately address the safety of family members (both parents and children) when there is an alleged history of abuse and do not provide a means for a parent to petition the court if a family court helper ascribes to the belief presented by Robert Smith.

I would like recommendations 69 B and F addressed in legislation for the family court helper roles such as parent coordinators, child and family investigators and family decision makers.

CJD 04-08 created Standards of Practice for what is now known as the Child and Family Investigator (formerly the Special Advocate) role. But the standards are filled with “shoulds” (over 50) and fail to address recommendations 69 B and F.

I fear recommendations 69 B and F will again be ignored if the development of Standards of Practice for the Parent Coordinator and the Family Decision Maker roles are the responsibility of the Standing Committee on Family Issues or a sub-committee of that committee.

Please address these omissions in the 2006 legislative session.
Addressing:

1) the lack of checks and balances and a system for continual improvement of the processes;
2) the lack of adherence of licensed mental health professionals to their standards of practice when serving in these court appointed roles and;
3) the appointment of individuals who have no licensure requirements or professional standards of practice (mediators) would help provide accountability of those serving in court appointed roles. It would be one way addressing the lack of accountability that Representative Boyd referred to at the house judicial committee hearings for HB05 1171 and 1172.

Thank you for your attention to my concern for this lack of oversight, checks and balances and a system for review and continual improvement of the process for these family court helper roles. It appears our most vulnerable families are the ones left using our domestic courts and they are the ones most likely to need protection.

I would like a response to my letter.


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Accountability
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Reged: 07/11/06
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Re: Write Leg. about lack of family court accountabili [Re: jenniemac]
      #124917 - 07/11/06 12:45 PM

Jenniemac,

As we have noticed many times, true reform will not be handed out to us by the politicians. Most people that use the Colorado family courts do not have anyone speaking for them whereas most of the "professionals" that profit from the family courts are very well represented. They have a vested interest in keeping things the same with absolutely NO accountability. I went through it personally for about three years until it ended for good - in my favor - no thanks to the courts or any of their appointed "helpers"...as the only thing they help is to separate you from your money. Here is a wild thought...how about organizing to bring a ballot intiative to the voters of Colorado to mandate ACCOUNTABILITY to all those who are involved in determining our children's fate. We have known them as Advocates, Court Helpers, Court Investigators, etc...you know, the likes of Sue Waters (who happened to be on my case and screwed up royally - but never had to answer to anyone despite violating most of the Judicial Directives authored by the committee she actually sits on.) Can anyone think of any profession that is granted immunity from being accountable for their actions - or lack thereof? I'm thinking if the voters of Denver can vote to make smoking pot legal, would they really not support protecting innocent children? After all, divorce is between two adults, but it ends up costing children the most. If anyone is interested, maybe we can put this on the 2008 ballot - it may be the only viable option we have to match the lobby power of the mental health professionals. For many (including myself) avoiding the courts is NOT a viable option. Instead, why can't we work to change the way the courts work? I strongly believe that the public will support bringing accountability to any profession, let alone those who deal with innocent children. Let's work to strip judicial immunity from all those court appointed "helpers"..it is up to us who have been screwed by the system to make it better for those who will go through it after us. Does anyone doubt that we will NOT have any shortage of examples of how these court appointees abuse their immunity? We can do this if we pool all our efforts together. It won't be easy - but it will be well worth it!


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jenniemac
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Reged: 06/02/05
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Re: Write Leg. about lack of family court accountabili [Re: Accountability]
      #129118 - 07/22/06 09:10 AM

I totally agree that there is a need for reform, a system of checks and balances and accountability for those serving in family court helper roles. I suggest you write letters. I continue to do so. Thanks for posting thoughts. The more individuals who share the more chance there is of having the family court reform.

There is a person working on family court issues at the national level. Below is a copy of the latest letter received from the department of Health and Human Services regarding concerns that were brought to HHS concerning the misuse of grant funds distributed to states.. The department of HHS provides grant funds to states for child custody issues. Our funds go to the Office of Dispute Resolution. I believe Cynthia Savage is the director. Below the letter is a link to the report submitted for 2003.

2003 Colorado Grant Report
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cse/pubs/2004/reports/prelim_access_visitation_grants/colorado.html

Note the reference to mediators, parent coordination and Special Advocate (now Family and Child Investigator or similar title). These are all family court helper roles where individuals serving in them, except for an atty serving as a Special Advocate, do not have to comply with an professional standards of practice. There is no follow-up as to financial demise of the family as a result of the court appointing a family court helper, and most importantly there is no follow-up as to outcome of the children or tracking what happens to the children as a result of the family being court ordered to use family court helper who has minimal guidelines to follow and does not have to comply with professional standards of practice.

It appears one of the goals of the grant funds is to increase parenting time between the two parents. One of state reports I viewed showed continual increase in the access time to both parents. So if this is the goal of the Colorado Office of Dispute Resolution it would explain why facts cases are ignored or minimized by family court helpers such as family and child investigators, mediators, and now parenting coordinators along with jungles. If I read the report correctly it appears most of the funds were used for indigent families. It is interesting that 2005 legislation which officially created the parenting coordinator role provides that a parenting coordinator can only be court ordered for non-indigent families.

The person working on family court issues at the national level has met with the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. This is the committee that is investigating the child pornography issues. She recommends sending letters to the person from individual’s state on the committee. Diane DeGette is the Colorado representative on this committee.
Her contact information is The Honorable Diana DeGette, 1530 Longworth HOB House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 (202)225-4431

I suggest writing a letter to Diane DeGette and also sending a letter to whichever political party you are affiliated with letting them know your concerns about the lack of accountability in family courts. The respective parties sometimes have we site surveys asking for input on issues.. I would complete the survey and let the party leaders know you do not support having legislation introduced which furthers the lack of accountability in family courts. Representative Cheri Jahn and Senator Dan Grossman were the ones responsible for introducing and advocating for passage of two bills in the 2005 legislation which added two more family court helper roles (parenting coordinator and family decision-maker). I believe we now have 21 different family court helper roles. There were no requirements for individuals serving in roles to adhere to standards of practice. There were no provisions for checks and balances. Representative Jahn received information regarding the questionable outcomes of the parenting coordinator role and concerns about the lack of checks and balances and accountability for the role.. Nothing was done with this information. Senator Dan Grossman has shown interest in running for Colorado Attorney General .There were no provisions to protect the consumer (in this case the family) in these bills.

If you agree this was irresponsible legislation, let your respective political party know.



DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES Office of the Secretary
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Office of the General Counsel
MAY 1 9 2006 Washington, D.C. 20201




Liz Richards
National Alliance for Family Court Justice
3919 Moss Drive
Annandale, VA 22003

Dear Ms. Richards:

I am responding to issues you raised about fraud or impropriety in the implementation of grant programs by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). The Office of the General Counsel has no authority to institute investigations. However, having reviewed your materials, we have decided to take several actions to address your concerns.

First, we formally referred your allegations to the HHS Office of the Inspector General (IG). The IG is the HHS office charged to investigate fraud or serious impropriety in HHS programs. We understand that some of your allegations have already been presented to the IC. Nonetheless, since we do not know what material has been provided to the IG, and because we have an independent obligation to refer matters involving allegations of fraud or serious impropriety to the IG, we are again referring the matter to the IG with all the material you submitted to us. In addition, we would like to make you aware that complaints of improper conduct by an IG should be filed with the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE). Further information about PCIE is at www.IGnet.gov.

You have raised specific allegations about the relationship between ACF and Jessica Pearson, the Center for Policy Research, the Children’s Rights Council or the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. We have requested ACF to review its records, and, if the person and the entities you mentioned have received funds from ACF, to inquire into your allegations, and to take appropriate action.

As your allegations raise questions of possible gender bias, we have also referred the matter to the HHS Office for Civil Rights for review and appropriate action. Finally, if you believe that criminal fraud has occurred, you should contact local, State, or federal law enforcement officials with jurisdiction over these activities.


David S. Cade
Deputy General Counsel


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esoxlucios
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Reged: 02/04/07
Posts: 6
Re: Write Leg. about lack of family court accountabili [Re: jenniemac]
      #195272 - 02/04/07 02:50 AM

Please visit www.knowYourCourts.com , where we're collecting everything you'd want to know about child and family investigators (f/k/a "special advocates").

See also: http://www.deltabravo.net/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topics&forum=170 and http://childcustodyattorney.com/childcustodydiscussion/viewforum.php?f=7


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